Future path of PA energy debated in state Supreme Court

Proponents of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)see it as a path to a modern economy that will see Pennsylvanians benefit from both a health and economic standpoint. 

Opponents to RGGI see it as something else – a plan that will raise taxes on residents and devastate the state’s economy. 

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court heard arguments on both sides Wednesday on an issue that will determine entry into the multi-state initiative. 

“We are pleased to see the court seriously addressing Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment and pushing the Department of Environmental Protection on its obligations as a trustee of our public natural resources,” said attorney Jessica O’Neill, who argued the case for PennFuture, a Harrisburg-based environmental advocacy nonprofit. 

“Several justices questioned the Commonwealth Court’s injunction, which stopped the RGGI regulation from going into effect, and we are confident that the Supreme Court will agree with the nonprofits and the DEP that the injunction was wrongly issued.” 

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court enjoined the state’s entry into RGGI while legal merits were being argued in court. Wednesday’s arguments were part of an appeal of that ruling that could result in Pennsylvania’s entry while the case proceeds. 

PennFuture President and CEO Patrick McDonnell called RGGI an initiative where every Pennsylvania citizen wins on health and economic outcomes. 

“RGGI is a cap-and-invest system that will add $4 billion in economic value across our region and create 30,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania,” said McDonnell. “The market has spoken, and fossil fuel plants continue to close, giving no employment alternative for the communities that host them. 

“Not only will RGGI reduce carbon pollution in Pennsylvania by up to 227 million tons by 2030, but the energy industry can easily make that transition with proven and affordable renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage technologies.” 

McDonnell said the 11 current RGGI states have proven that the benefits of moving forward equal lower costs, more jobs, better health, and a sustainable future. 

“It’s time to start delivering on the promise of a clean energy future for Pennsylvanians,” he stated. 

Pennsylvania House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster called on the state Supreme Court to follow the law and continue the delay placed on entry into the initiative by the Commonwealth Court while legal merits are presented. 

Cutler said in a statement Wednesday that as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court hears arguments that will decide whether the state’s entrance into RGGI can continue concurrent while legal questions are still being determined, he encouraged the court to follow the law and continue to pause entry. 

Cutler added that legal questions include whether a governor can “unilaterally place a tax on Pennsylvanians.” He said Pennsylvania’s entry into the 11-state compact “will do nothing but raise energy prices on Pennsylvania’s families and crush family-sustaining energy sector jobs.” 

O’Neill remarked in an interview on the eve of the hearing that a decision by the Supreme Court wasn’t expected soon. 

“The Supreme Court will write an opinion and it could take them some time, so we don’t really have a timeline,” she said, adding that there is a timeliness about entry into RGGI. 

“But for this injunction, we would have begun participating in RGGI last September,” she said. “Every quarter that we’re not in it, the state is losing out on potential proceeds. 

“There is a real sense of urgency to being able to not just start capping this pollution, but to actually receive these benefits and start this program of working toward energy transition.”

Reading, Allentown rank among state’s top cities

Reading, Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York rank among the top seven Pennsylvania cities to live in, according to a recent report from U.S. News & World Report. 

Some 150 metro areas in the country were analyzed by U.S. News and ranked on the quality of life, job market, value of residing there, and desire to live there. 

Reading ranks No. 6 in Pennsylvania in Best Places to Live. It’s No. 10 in Best Places to Retire and No. 88 nationally in Best Places to Live. U.S. News rated Reading 6.2 overall. 

Allentown is ranked as the No. 7 Best Place to Live in Pennsylvania and No. 9 in Best Places to Retire in the state. Allentown is rated No. 109 nationally in Best Places to Live and received an overall rating of 6.1 from U.S. News.

Harrisburg heads the list of Pennsylvania cities to live in, the state capital earning a ranking of 6.4 out of 10. U.S. News ranked Harrisburg No. 2 in Best Places to Retire in Pennsylvania and No. 38 nationally in Best Places to Live. 

U.S. News cited the capital city’s accessibility to Amish country and to major metro areas in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Hershey and Gettysburg are also cited by U.S. News as popular tourist attractions, and the urban landscape and close proximity of the Appalachian Trail, state parks, and forests are also seen as benefits to living in Harrisburg. 

Lancaster is ranked by U.S. News as the No. 3 Best Place to Live in Pennsylvania, and No. 1 in Best Places to Retire. The Red Rose City is No. 55 in the country in Best Places to Live. Like Harrisburg, Lancaster earned a score of 6.4 out of 10. 

York ranks No. 4 in Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania and No. 5 in Best Places to retire. The White Rose City is No. 78 in places to live. U.S. News gives York an overall ranking of 6.3.

Among other Pennsylvania cities, U.S. News ranks Pittsburgh as the state’s No. 2 city to live in. Scranton is ranked No. 5 and Philadelphia No. 8.

Bed Bath & Beyond stores closing in Lehigh Valley, central Pa.

Bed Bath & Beyond store locations in the Lehigh Valley and central Pennsylvania have commenced closing. 

The liquidation event for 11 Pennsylvania locations and 360 stores nationally is being handled by Hilco Merchant Resources, Gordon Brothers, Tiger Capital Group, and B. Riley Retail Solutions in connection with the commencement of chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions and wind down of Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. 

Store locations closing in Pennsylvania include Easton, Exton, Harrisburg, and Lancaster. 

Hilco Merchant Resources is a division of Hilco Global, and the company announced in a press release that buybuy Baby store locations in Lansdale and Whitehall are among 120 locations across the U.S. that are closing. 

A spokesperson for the liquidation event said in a statement that it is “an opportunity to save on household items or to stock up on baby essentials at discounted prices.” 

Shoppers can take advantage of discounts ranging from 10% to 30% off the lowest ticketed prices on a variety of home, baby, beauty, and wellness products at Bed Bath & Beyond and buybuy Baby stores. 

The Bed Bath & Beyond sales event offers a selection of home goods with discounts across all household items, including bedding, bath, décor, window curtains, furniture, kitchenware, cookware, small appliances, cleaning tools, storage, and organization solutions in addition to personal care items, luggage, and additional items. 

The buybuy BABY sale provides infant and toddler essentials from leading brands, including nursery furniture, cribs, bassinets, play yards, activity sets, strollers, car seats, travel gear, bouncers, swings, nursing and feeding supplies, clothing and accessories, bath products, diaper solutions, health and safety products, toys, and more. 

Select fixtures, furnishings and equipment will also be available for sale in closing locations. Gift cards, merchandise credits, and loyalty rewards will be honored through May 8. 

Hilco Global noted on it site that all sales are final during the store closing event. Returns and exchanges for items purchased prior to April 26, will be accepted in accordance with usual policies through close of business on Wednesday, May 24.

Lehigh Valley, Central Pa. rank high nationally for living wages

Both the Lehigh Valley and Harrisburg regions have ranked among the nation’s leaders in the percentage of workers with living-wage jobs in 2022, according to an analysis released by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP). 

LISEP Wednesday released a comprehensive analysis of the True Rate of Unemployment (TRU) by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) for 2022, a more in-depth version of its monthly True Rate of Unemployment report that focuses on the nation’s 100 most populous MSAs.  

TRU tracks the “functionally unemployed,” defined by LISEP as the jobless, plus those seeking, but unable to find, full-time employment paying above the poverty line after adjusting for inflation. 

In the TRU by MSA report for 2022, LISEP found the rate of functional unemployment for the the Lehigh Valley decreased by 6.1% in 2022 to 15.3%. 

That makes the Lehigh Valley the third lowest and seventh most improved region.  

The Harrisburg-Carlisle MSA decreased by 4.2% to 15.5%. 

That makes the region the fourth lowest TRU.  

The institute said significant growth in the manufacturing sector helped fuel the growth in living-wage jobs in the Lehigh Valley, which grew by 4% in 2022 and has grown at a rate 11 times faster than the nation as a whole over the last five years. 

In the Harrisburg-Carlisle region employment grew notably fast in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, totaling 6.5% in year-over-year growth, and employment in healthcare and social assistance showed significant growth at 5.6%.  

Nationally, the TRU was 22.9% for the month of February 2023. 

Other MSAs ranking in the top ten for lowest functional unemployment include Bakersfield, CA (14%); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA (16.1%); Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD (16.8%); Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (17.4%); Charleston-North Charleston, SC (17.6%); Raleigh, NC (17.7%); and Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN (17.9%).  

MSAs with the highest TRU are Dayton, OH (31.5%); Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA (29.7%); Greensboro-High Point, NC (29.4%); Rochester, NY (28.3%); New Orleans-Metairie, LA (28.1%); Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY (28%); Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL (27.5%); and Madison, WI (27.1%). 

“The huge disparity among these regional statistics – where 90 percent of workers are in living wage jobs in one region, and another where nearly half are functionally unemployed – tells a strong, compelling story,” said LISEP Chairman Gene Ludwig. “We are not a single, national economy where a one-size-fits-all economic policy will have uniform, positive results. It is important for policymakers to be aware of these disparities and take a deeper dive into these data to understand what is working – and perhaps more importantly, what is not – when making decisions that may disproportionately impact one region over another.” 


Bank celebrates Lehigh Valley branch opening on heels of national honor

Mid Penn Bank
Mid Penn Bank –

Harrisburg-based Mid Penn Bank, which was recently ranked sixth on S&P Global Market Intelligence’s list of Best-Performing Large Community Banks for 2022, is celebrating opening its first full-service Lehigh Valley branch.   

A grand opening will be held April 1 at the new financial center at 3900 Hamilton Blvd. in Allentown. 

The new location offers traditional banking and account services with access to trust, wealth management, and insurance solutions.  

The office also houses the regional commercial lending and cash management teams and is led by Regional President Frank Heston.  

“We are excited to host the grand opening celebration and welcome individuals and businesses from the region to Mid Penn and our brand of banking,” Heston said. 

Its recent S&P ranking was based on the evaluation of 196 institutions. Mid Penn Bank was the only Pennsylvania bank to make the list. 

S&P assessed the performance of community banks and credit unions with assets between $3 billion and $10 billion for the year ended December 31, 2022. The company calculates scores based on metrics such as returns, growth, and efficiency but also places emphasis on the capital strength and risk profile of balance sheets. 


Central Pa. social services agency brings lawsuit against Mid Penn Bank

The Center for Independent Living of Central PA (CILCP) announced Monday that it filed a complaint against Mid Penn Bank for allegedly breaching their contract and acting in bad faith. 

Filed in Harrisburg last Friday, the lawsuit seeks to hold Mid Penn Bank accountable for its actions, or lack of actions, and to obtain compensation for the damages CILCP endured. 

Based in Harrisburg, CILCP is a non-profit social services agency that aids people with disabilities, CILCP charges that for more than 10 years Mid Penn Bank allowed ACH withdrawals to occur in excess of $249,000 from an account that had no prior record of ACH transactions.

In a statement to the Central Penn Business Journal, the bank said it values its relationship with the nonprofit.

“We have always valued our relationship with The Center for Independent Living of Central PA (CILCP). While Mid Penn Bank cannot comment on pending litigation, we take the security of our customers seriously and will respond appropriately in court.”

CILCP states that Mid Penn Bank did not attempt to resolve, investigate, or assist CILCP in recovering the funds, and that Mid Penn Bank’s security procedures did not protect CILCP. 

“It is unprofessional and disappointing that a bank, who holds all the company’s funds, says they are sorry for your almost $250,000 loss, but there is nothing they can do to help get the money back,” CILCP CEO Janetta W. Green said in a statement. 

“As a small non-profit, we depend on our banks to protect our money and when the bank’s security measures fail, the bank should be held accountable.” 

The lawsuit looks to obtain compensation for the damages suffered by CILCP because of Mid Penn Bank’s actions. It also seeks to hold Mid Penn Bank responsible for its alleged lack of effective security procedures. 

Mid Penn Bank has headquarters in Millersburg and mid-state locations in Lehigh, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, and Lancaster counties. At time of writing, Mid Penn Bank had not yet responded to an email seeking comment.

Barley Snyder names new COO

Long-time Barley Snyder employee Dorothy Rund has been promoted to chief operating officer of the firm. 

Rund has been with the firm for close to 30 years, serving previously as chief administrative officer. She will continue to work with the firm’s management committee and execute additional initiatives to help shape the firm’s overall operations. 

“Dorothy has been performing the traditional duties of a COO for years and has been a critical force in our strategic growth over the last decade,” Barley Snyder Managing Partner Jeff Lobach said in a statement. “Her promotion is well deserved. The firm’s leadership looks forward to continued partnership with Dorothy in extending our organization’s positive trajectory to which she has already contributed so much.” 

Barley Snyder serves businesses, individuals, and organizations in civil law and has more than 120 attorneys practicing from offices located in Reading, Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, Hanover, Gettysburg, Wyomissing, Schuylkill Haven, and Malvern. The firm also has offices In Maryland. 

“It has been my honor to serve at Barley Snyder and watch our firm evolve throughout our footprint for the past three decades,” Rund said. “Furthermore, it has been a pleasure working alongside brilliant, talented professionals who continue to make a positive impact on our clients and the community while setting the bar high and exceeding expectations for our team.” 

A member of the Association of Legal Administration for more than 30 years, Rund previously served as a mentor for the Lancaster Chamber’s Mentorship program.

International business experts from Berks and across Pa. mobilize to assist business

International business experts from Berks County and additional Pennsylvania counties including York and Lancaster have committed to be part of the mobilization of Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors. 

The collective comprises a total of 25 international business experts serving all of Pennsylvania. They’ve conducted business in more than 60 countries and speak more than 20 languages. 

The mobilization of Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors (GBA), a private sector, B2B advisory board for regional and international companies seeking to expand exports, imports, foreign direct investment, and international partnerships was announced by the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC). 

GBA is led by program director Wilfred Muskens. The newly appointed Muskens is Honorary Consul in Philadelphia for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and former Deputy Secretary for the Office of International Business Development for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).  

“Global priorities have changed dramatically since COVID, the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and related supply chain disruptions, and no one knows this better than our collective that has done business in more than 60 countries and speaks more than 20 languages,” Muskens said in a statement. 

“What makes Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors truly unique – with nothing else like it in Pennsylvania – is that its members are almost entirely from the private sector, we receive zero government funding and focus exclusively on international trade and investment. We’ve also expanded our reach to include not only the greater Philadelphia area but the entire state of Pennsylvania.” 

Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors will offer international business support and global advisory services harnessing expertise from Pennsylvania businesses and universities that include Fulton Bank and Elizabethtown College among others. Other active partners include the Irish-American Business Chamber and Network, the German-American Chamber, and the Mid-Atlantic Eurasia Business Council. 

GBA will also work in close collaboration with other international organizations in PA, including the Commonwealth’s Office of International Business Development (Department of Community and Economic Development), the PA Department of Agriculture, World Trade Centers in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, World Affairs Councils, bilateral Chambers, Small Business Development Centers and more. Agriculture, finance, health care, life sciences, energy, tourism, logistics and higher education are among the industries to be served. 

Muskens said GBA’s goal is to be a complementary, B2B source of international information and expertise, leveraging but not replacing free and low-cost assistance from state, regional, and federal trade organizations. As well as offering GBA member services where appropriate and useful, GBA will refer companies to those organizations. 

“This exceptional partnership ensures that local businesses can draw on the region’s greatest international minds to build their presence in global markets, and international businesses get easy access to a full range of foreign investment support services,” said CCEDC Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Michael Grigalonis. 

“We’re excited to advance several projects that are already underway including an upcoming trade mission to Ireland, a partnership opportunity with India, a Dutch urban farming endeavor, support of a Canadian manufacturer and services for underrepresented communities including Hispanic-owned businesses.” 

In addition to individual country, cultural and language expertise, other areas of expertise range from strategic planning and market research to more tactical and transactional based services in areas such as international logistics, law, real estate, education and banking. Depending on a client’s individual needs as well as the nature and scope of work, free and fee-based services will also be offered. 

Harrisburg home to Fetterman’s new office

U.S. Senator John Fetterman announced Wednesday the opening of his regional office in Harrisburg. 

The office is housed on the fourth floor of the inter-city complex and along with his Philadelphia office, is the senator’s second open in-state office location. 

“I am proud to share we opened our Harrisburg office last week,” Fetterman said in a statement. “As Lieutenant Governor, I spent significant time in our state capitol working to deliver for the people of Pennsylvania. I am pleased to continue that work as Senator by providing top-notch constituent services throughout Central Pennsylvania.” 

The coming weeks and months are expected to see additional offices opening across the state. The openings will span communities and regions. 

Visitors are instructed to enter via the Market Street entrance. Once inside the mall, visitors will pass the convenience store on their right and can use the next set of doors on the right for the Lerner Tower elevators. Visitors can then take the elevator to the fourth floor and follow the sign for the Senate office. 

The senator’s office will include statewide constituent service headquarters and outreach offices for counties located in the center part of the state.  Enhanced signage to improve ease of constituent access is being planned. 

History made as Shapiro, Davis sworn-in as Pa.’s new leaders

Invoking the history of Pennsylvania, its founder William Penn, and various chapters of its storied past and present, Democrat Josh Shapiro was inaugurated Tuesday as the state’s 48th Governor. 

Amid cold, overcast surroundings, the 49-year-old former attorney general placed his hand on three Jewish Bibles and took the oath of office from Chief Justice Debra Todd. 

The three Bibles are of special significance to Shapiro, who is Pennsylvania’s third Jewish governor. One was a family bible; one was from Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, where 11 worshippers, including several Holocaust survivors, were killed in 2018 by a gunman in the deadliest antisemitic attack on U.S. soil; and one was U.S. Army-issued and brought into battle on D-Day, June 6, 1944, by Philadelphia’s Herman Hershman, a Purple Heart recipient. 

“Along the winding road that led to this moment,” Shapiro began, “I’ve been grounded in my faith and family.” 

Shapiro’s swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the state Capitol was one of two historic ceremonies taking place Tuesday in Harrisburg. Austin Davis was sworn in the state’s Senate chamber as Pennsylvania’s first Black lieutenant governor, and at age 33, is the country’s youngest lieutenant governor. 

Davis said his swearing-in sends a message to young people in Pennsylvania, particularly young people of color, that the Keystone State is a place where everyone is welcomed and can succeed. 

“I say to all the young people watching right now, who are worried and unsure about their future – that the American Dream is alive and well in Pennsylvania,” Davis said. “That no matter how you grew up, no matter where you come from, or what you look like – this Commonwealth will always be a place where you can create your own destiny.” 

Shapiro spoke of destiny as well. Acknowledging that he is “entrusted with this awesome responsibility,” he said he realizes “it is just for a moment in the long history of our Commonwealth” and that he is the “next link in the chain of progress.” 

Noting the presence of former Pennsylvania Governors Tom Wolf, Tom Ridge, Mark Schweiker, and Tom Corbett, Shapiro thanked his predecessors, particularly his immediate predecessor, Wolf. 

“Thanks to his leadership,” Shapiro said, “we now find ourselves in the strongest financial shape in the history of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, allowing us to make critical investments for tomorrow.” 

Shapiro emphasized that the presence of the former governor’s “formally celebrates the peaceful transfer of power.” 

His statement was one of several pointed references he made to political extremism and the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

“Here in Pennsylvania, we didn’t allow the extremists who peddle lies drown out the truth,” he said. “We showed that our system works and that our elections are free and fair, safe and secure.” 

Shapiro’s speech lasted approximately 45 minutes and covered a wide range of subjects, including abortion, diversity, education, environment, extremism, faith, family, gun violence, public safety, and religion. Staying away from specificity, Shapiro spoke largely in broad terms. His speech was aimed at unifying a Pennsylvania government divided and attempted to resonate not only with his supporters but also with those whose votes he failed to get. 

Having the reputation as a consensus builder, Shapiro is expected to put together one of the most diverse cabinets in Pennsylvania history. Despite the divided government in Harrisburg, Democrat and Republican leaders have spoken of having common ground when it comes to investing in education, investing in workforce development, and economic development. 

“I set out to build a Cabinet and senior team that looks like Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said, “and reflects the people and the communities that I just took an oath to serve and protect.” 

Shapiro’s inaugural speech often had the tone of the type of rallying cry heard on campaign trails. It also mirrored in some respects the lyrical oratory of former Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Shapiro is seen by many as a possible presidential prospect. 

Shapiro concluded his address by stating, And so, with my faith firmly rooted in we the people of Pennsylvania, with my heart open to others and my eyes fixed ahead, I am prepared to do my part to move our Commonwealth forward.” 

Congratulations on Shapiro’s swearing-in came from several fronts. Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said in a statement that as a candidate, Shapiro “offered many policy proposals that provided a path to bipartisan accomplishment and real progress for shared goals. As we look ahead, it is our hope that Gov. Shapiro governs under that same spirit and with a true willingness to find common ground.” 

Bill Johnston-Walsh, state president of AARP Pennsylvania, also congratulated Shapiro and Davis. He added that AARP Pennsylvania applauds the commitment to public service shown by Shapiro and Davis and the message of inclusivity that’s been the essence of the Shapiro-Davis Transition Team, aligning as it does with AARP’s mission to lead positive social change and to find ways to improve the lives of Pennsylvania’s 50 and older population. 

“Recognizing that every Pennsylvanian deserves access to quality, affordable health care and home and community based-services when needed,” Johnston-Walsh said, “we look forward to working with the Shapiro Administration and the General Assembly to promote policies that guarantee residents throughout the Commonwealth can live and age healthy and well with the dignity and respect they deserve.” 

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) State Director Greg Moreland urged the Shapiro-Davis Administration and legislators to keep small businesses’ interests in mind. 

“Small business is the backbone of Pennsylvania’s economy, anchoring Main Streets across the state and creating a majority of all net new jobs,” Moreland said. “There is much work to be done to ensure small businesses in Pennsylvania can thrive. 

“NFIB stands ready to work with Governor Josh Shapiro, his cabinet members, and the Senate and House to adopt policies that help improve the business environment for small businesses in Pennsylvania.”